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Data, charity, eggs and geekery: Social Media Cafe returns


The first proper Social Media Cafe of 2010 was back to form and the usual mix of good natured meet-up, debate, preview – and this time with the addition of egg!

Back at the BBC Club it was a good turnout with a wealth of interesting sessions. The biggest debate of the evening – which subsequently spilled out to the pub and tweets, and is sure to continue into the blog posts – was prompted by Julian Tait’s presentation about work to make Manchester an Open Data city.

Social media co-founder Julian gave us all a trot through some of the initiatives happening in this area including the Govenment’s OpenData initiative, mashups of data such as Mapumental and Urban Eco Map.

In his FutureEverything capacity, Julian makes the case for Manchester to be at the fore of the campaign for opening up data in everything from the town hall to the transport system.

Forward-thinking certainly, but could it be a step too far for some? Reasonable concerns about individual privacy aside, questions about the ability for individuals or groups to make meaningful conclusions about the data, or whether it could be used in a way that’s harmful to the local population, soon appear on the horizon when this topic is discussed.

House prices, health services, tax issues – all areas of life where interpretation of data by bodies looking to charge more, or reduce services, could easily lead to cases being made by manipulative interpretation of such data.

It’s too simplistic to see the debate in two separate camps – all the points made are valid ones – but in weighing it up, for me this issue comes down to who holds that data. If councils did want to re-shape their charging for say, waste collections, at the moment they would be the only people with the data. Surely the free data lobby isn’t asking for anything more than equal access to stuff that’s already there?

As David Bird so succinctly tweeted: “The data is innocent, it’s the mining that makes it guilty.”

Anyone looking for more information on this topic can also follow the national campaign to ‘free data’ on The Guardian’s blog.

* The other session I took part in was Chi-Chi’s update on her ambitious fundraiser 7 Wonders in 7 Days.

The scale and scope of this venture makes it exhausting to even hear about. In brief, it will involve raising £770,000 in charity cash over 10 months in a trip of a lifetime.

It’s always interesting to see Chi-Chi present her ideas – not least because of the way the audience is consulted and encouraged to input into her schemes. I hadn’t realised before that one of the inspirations for her trip had come from the TwitchHiker which took place across Twitter last year and has obviously provided some valuable lessons.

Chi-Chi has posted more about her session here.

* Because it isn’t possible to attend all the sessions at Social Media Cafe with full attention, I missed out on Adrian Slatcher’s look at the annoyingly over-hyped iPad and another fundraiser for Manchester which looks worth further investigation – Shine 2010 as well as a talk about the Digital Economy Bill by Yuwei Lin and news of this year’s Twestival.

And finally, as they say……… yes, that egg. A subject destined to appear on my other blog, perhaps.

The Mancheser Egg – pickled, wrapped in sausage meat and black pudding before being deep-fried in a Warburton’s crust. In the best traditions of journalism, I made my excuses and left it…..

Manchester’s busy bloggy September

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Manchester’s bloggers and tweeters are a busy bunch at the moment judging by the number of events dropping into my inbox. Here’s a quick summary of what’s coming up in the next few weeks.

* First up is a charity event this Friday to tempt us all away from the computer. The “Step into the night” 10-mile sponsored walk is being organised by UNICEF and Barclays, who do some joint work over there to help get kids back into schools, after more than 600 primary schools were destroyed and 3,000 teachers were killed or forced to flee during the genocide. Organisers say that if 2,000 people walk in Manchester, each raising one penny for every step taken, their contribution could help construct four new schools. The walk kicks off at 7pm on Friday, September 4th beginning and ending in Castlefield and encompassing Old Trafford, Manchester Cathedral, Granada Studios and Salford Quays. Sign up at and follow on twitter @unicef_uk or by searching for #walk4rwanda.

* The monthly Social Media Cafe Manchester shindigs return after the summer break next Tuesday. Names requird in advance at the wiki for the security at hosts for the night, the BBC Club. I’ll see you there and, be warned, I’m looking for volunteers willing to put their face on camera and give me their thoughts on #smc_mcr’s first year.

* Another charity event on Thursday, Sept 10 with Manchester’s second Twestival. Tickets are now on sale with proceeds this year going to St Ann’s Hospice. MancTwester 2009 – the Twestival local for Manchester is at House9Bar, Century Street, Manchester from 6.30pm – 10.00pm.

* And another welcome return – Manchester Bloggers Meet up a week later on Thursday, September 17 from 6:00pm – 8:00pm at Cord Bar Street: Dorsey St (alley off Tib Street), Northern Quarter City. Email: themanchizzle AT Kate Feld says: “All are welcome… bloggers, friends of bloggers, blog readers, whatever; come on down to the basement at Cord.

“The folks from Creative Tourist, the web magazine of the Manchester Museums Consortium, will be buying everyone a drink or two and giving us a brief rundown of their goings-on. But it’ll mostly be the same informal structure as past events.”

* Lastly, as I’m sure you’ll have heard by now the nominations for this year’s Manchester Blog Awards are open, until September 18 and they’ve already received more than 120 replies. Just goes to show what a bustling blogging scene there continues tio be in the city. Nominate your favourite, your own or your mate’s at the website at in the following categories: Best Writing, Best Arts and Culture Blog, Best City or Neighbourhood Blog, Best New Blog and Best Personal Blog. Now in its fourth year, the annual awards recognise the best of Manchester’s online writing. Eligible blogs submitted by the close of nominations on September 18. Once nominations close, a judging panel will select the winners, which will be announced at the Manchester Blog Awards event on the evening of Wednesday, October 21 at Band on the Wall on Swan Street. Organisers say: “We think this iconic Manchester venue is the ideal place to celebrate some of the city’s most talented independent voices. “  For the latest updates on the Manchester Blog Awards, subscribe at the website, or follow on Twitter at @mcrblogawards.

Written by sarahhartley

September 2nd, 2009 at 7:37 pm